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Happiness beyond Well Being: Some Reflections of Canadian Society

Abstract

This paper aims to analyze two conflicting views on happiness that are being debated in cotemporary
societies using the data from General Social Survey (2003) in Canada. While well being demands for
objective indicators (such as income and education) to be maximized as a means and an ends of happiness,
satisfaction is judged on the basis of subjective features that determine one’s perceptions, values and
attitudes to impact on own and others’ lives. The challenges are then to unite the two concepts that fill the
gap between the well being and satisfaction so as to accomplish the sustainable happiness.
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1. Introduction

Defining happiness involves a complex process unlike its simplicity in wording.

Happiness has different dimensions. Classical economists have conceived happiness in terms of

economic well being as an instrument of overall happiness impacting on physical, mental and

social aspects of an individual. This is based on economic utilization of resources from the point

of capital productivity and has a deep connection with Gross national product (Brien, 2005;

Bracho, 2005; Spaemann, 2003). However, this concept of happiness has been challenged within

a new science paradigm dominated by human psychology. The new science approach values

both tangible and intangible dimensions of life, and their mutual dependency, as they are two

sides of same coin (Argyle, 2001; Layard, 2005; Tideman, 2005).

Happiness can be understood as a state of satisfaction or contentment and well-being,

based on our natural identity (Bracho, 2005). Happiness in well being dimension relates more

with physical and external aspects of our beings. WHO links wellbeing with health as it sees

health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence

of disease or infirmity (Helliwell, 2005).

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Happiness as a state of contentment reflects more spiritual and inner aspects of our

identity. Wisdom is a prerequisite of such happiness, as it leads us to choose a correct path of

living, in which, we can differentiate what makes us happy or unhappy (Bracho, 2005; Tideman,

2005). It would involve a qualitative judgment on values and other intangibles that go beyond its

initial premises (Argyle, 2001; Layard, 2005; Tideman, 2005). Tideman further argues that we

can end up being unhappy even after being wealthy or healthy. Thus if we assume that we would

be happier as we consume more, we are overlooking the intricate functioning of human brain

(Graham & Pettinato, 2002; Tideman, 2005; Sen, 1992).

To some extent, happiness may be caused by objective features such as wealth and

employment, however, there are subjective features that might be most important, which we are

not aware of (Argyle, 2001: 222). For instance, how we perceive those conditions in given

circumstances that makes us happy or unhappy. Happiness is not about absence or presence of

objectivity but is closely tied up with “how people see things to a considerable extent their

perceptions, even if they are false are more important than reality” (Borrow, 1980: 125).

2. Objectives of the Study

The overall goal of this case study is to reflect the general happiness of people in Canadian

society. The specific objectives are following;

1. To identify and analyze the factors that affect happiness of people in Canada

using different explanatory variables as indicators,

2. To indicate the problems and suggest few strategies for foreseeing the happiness

of people beyond wellbeing.

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3. Perspectives of Happiness: Theoretical Framework

In pursuit of happiness, the gross national happiness (GNH) over gross national product

(GNP) was first initiated in a small country Bhutan. GNH has four important dimensions:

sustainable and equitable economic life, social and cultural identity, environmental harmony and

local governance and the combination of all contributes to spiritual integrity (Prakke, 2005).

Bhutanese as proponent of Buddhist spirituality enjoy high GNH, which could be taken by the

nations of high GNP (Galay, 2001). GNH seeks to maximize happiness rather than economic

growth. It recognizes that an individual has material, spiritual and emotional needs (Hirata,

2005). Hence, people can not be happy just because the nation has a high growth or GNP, but if

people are happier based on high GNH. Layard (2005) confers that people in West are no

happier than fifty years ago despite a massive increase in their purchasing power. Income has

little or no effect on happiness once reaching a minimum threshold, although it can contribute to

happiness to that level of threshold (Frey & Stutzer, 2002: 75).

A Nobel economist Amartya Sen (1983) claims that human beings are not “rational

fools” to be motivated merely by the economic benefit that is based on production and exchange.

In fact, they could equally be moved by other regarded values of justice, fairness, trust, honoring

of contracts, civic duty, religions, and cultural heritages (Sen, 1983). In this sense, wisdom and

compassions owe a great value in transforming resources into capabilities and thereby the well

being. Linking the capabilities with well being, Sen (1992) contends that freedom of choice

(which determines the capabilities) has a direct impact on the well being achieved. The

capabilities are more intrinsic than the extrinsic. If we rely only on the utility based pleasure,

happiness and desires, we are paralyzing our inner strength (Sen, 1992). Sen further states that

“the grumbling rich man may well be less happy than a contented peasant, but he does have a

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higher standard living than the peasant” (cited in Graham & Pettinato, 2002: 71). In pursuit of

such happiness, the revolutionary leaders (such as Franklin, and Jefferson) in Europe and North

America in 18th century valued indigenous wisdom in their struggle to fight against feudalism to

make more human freer society (Bracho, 2005).

Well being based on utilitarian judgments or consumption is likely to be transitory. An

extra pleasure that is associated with additional material goods has short tenure and it even

disappears with continued consumption (Bruni & Porta, 2005: 124). This process of adaptation

supplements the socially comparative or even competitive process in consumption.

Consequently, people continue to strive for higher aspirations, which affect their well being.

Individual well being is determined by the gap between aspirations and achievement (Bruni &

Porta, et.al, 2005). Happiness measured on objective indicators (such as income and

employment) by new classical economists is often found to be contradictory to the results of

empirical research. For instance, one of the causal relations of unhappiness is linked with

unemployment, however, unhappy people are indeed less successful in labor market (Argyle,

2001; Frey & Stutzer, 2002). As a result, they are likely to be frequent laid off from employment.

Russell (1975) highlights on one’s feeling of security and self-esteem as a basis of

happiness as they allow reasons for own values in judgment of others. Russell further analyzed

increasing failure of family life and its negative association with happiness and the need for the

individual to have pride in his/her work. Personal happiness partly depends on external forces

and partly on oneself (Layard, 2005; Russell, 1975). For instance, a person has a little control

over loosing his/her parents. Strong personal relationships contribute to happiness with less

stress, improved health, and increased self esteem (Belliotti, 2004: 61). Similarly, social support

and sense of control on own lives are interchangeable and are the most important sources of well

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being. Hobbes argues that human beings are inherently social and their happiness depends on the

quality of their relationship with other people (cited in Layard, 2005).

Above all, one’s way to perceive things or their attitudes in given circumstances largely

matter, which is a unique means of human freedom (Layard, 2005: 8).

4. Research Hypothesis

a) Happiness is independent of income, employment status, health conditions,


marital status and spiritual beliefs,

b) Happiness is related with satisfaction in terms of health, job, finance and overall
life satisfaction,

c) Happiness is dependent on sense of belonging, number of friends and relatives,


participation in union and association, and emotional support received and provided.

5. Research Framework

a) Description of Data: Data from General Social Survey 2003 (Canada) has been used for the

purpose of this case study. The target population in this survey includes all persons 15 years of

age and older in Canada excluding: 1. residents of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and

Nunavut; and 2. full-time residents of institutions.

b) Sampling Process: For sampling, target population was divided into geographic strata.

Households were selected using a Random Digit Dialing method that gave each telephone

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number in a stratum an equal chance of being selected. One person aged 15 or older was

randomly selected from each selected household to participate in the survey.

c) Selection of Variables: Happiness is selected as a dependent variable and the explanatory

variables are categorized into well being and state of contentment, as they are presumed to have

impact on happiness. Wellbeing variables include income, employment status, and self assessed

health. State of contentment variables consist of satisfaction to health, finance, job satisfaction,

and overall life satisfaction, sense of belongingness, and number of closed friends and relatives

Some variables such as gender, age group, are used as control variables to see their implications

on the relationship between dependent and other independent variables.

d) Measurement of variables: Variables are measured in three scales depending on their nature.

For example, income, age group, and number of hours volunteered, are measured in interval ratio

scale, and other categorical variables are either in nominal or in ordinal scale. For example,

happiness, sense of belongingness, and self assessed health, satisfaction (health, job, finances,

whole life) are measured in ordinal scale and gender, employment status, emotional support and

participation in group activities are measured in nominal scale. Ordinal scales are assigned from

lowest number to the highest. For instance 1 is assigned for very unhappy and 4 for very happy

and this scaling is consistent with other ordinal variables as well. Some variables are recoded and

dummies are created as necessary for the purpose of analysis.

6. Analysis of Findings

Analysis has been segregated into two parts. The first part focuses on well being aspects of

happiness and thus measuring on more objective indicators such as income, health and

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employment. The second part highlights on the subjective factors such as sense of

belongingness, social support and satisfaction in terms of health, job, finances and overall life

situation.

6.1 Happiness as Well Being

6.1.1 Happiness and Income

Happiness is found to be significantly related with income as indicated by Gamma test

and its p value (P<.005), which contradicts our hypothesis. There is a positive association

between happiness and income, however, the association is weak (.091).

Majority of people with very high income group (58.2%) are very happy as compared to

high (52.6%), medium (43.5%) and low (32.7%) income group (Table 1). However, at second

level of happiness, a majority of people are affiliated with low (55.2%) and medium (55.1%)

income group. It is interesting to learn that 48.9 percent of people from no income group are

somewhat happy unlike from the very high income group who constitute only 39.5 percent for

the same. In this group, females constitute the larger population (26.5%) as compared to males

(20.4%).

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Happiness Household Income Total

Low Medium High Very High

Very Unhappy 14.8 45 57.2 37.4 154.4


(2.4 %) (.9 %) (.5%) (.4%) (.8 %)

Somewhat unhappy 71.1 216.8 276 180.4 744.3


(9.7%) (4.4%) (2.8%) (2%) (3.9%)

Somewhat happy 844.9 2574.4 3277.6 2142.8 8839.7


(55.2%) (51.1%) (44.1%) (39.8%) (46.8%)

Very happy 876.2 2669.9 3399.2 2222.3 9167.6


(32.7%) (43.5%) (52.6%) (58.2%) (48.5%)

Total 1807 5506 7010 4583 18906.0


100 % 100 % 100 % 100 % 100%

Gamma (value) (Std. error) (Approx T (b) (Sig.)


.091 .009 10.362 .000

Table 1: Happiness by Household Income

Since there is a great variation in income among different age group and between gender,

it is worth considering these variables into account. For this purpose, multiple regression analysis

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has been used to see the effect of each independent variable on dependent variable controlling

for each other.

Table 2: Happiness by Gender, Age group and Income

Un standardized Standardized
Variables Coefficients Coefficients t Sig.

B Std. Error Beta


(Constant) 3.118 .020 156.346 .000
sex .041 .009 .034 4.721 .000
Age group of the
respondent (7 -.013 .003 -.035 -4.812 .000
categories)
Total household income .042 .002 .179 24.456 .000
a Dependent Variable: happiness

Table 2 indicates that the household income have a significant partial effect on level of

happiness controlling for age and gender and vice versa as indicated by t test and corresponding

p values(<.005).

While age has a negative correlation with happiness, household income has a positive

correlation with the same. For instance, happiness decreases by .013 with every year increase in

age and increases by .04 for every unit increase in income. However, the association between age

and happiness (.035) and income and happiness (.174) is weak indicating the low strength of

association.

Overall, the above analysis indicates that income has a significant effect on determining

happiness regardless of gender, and age group.

6.1.2 Happiness and Employment Status

Happiness is also highly dependent on the employment status as indicated by the Chi-

Square test and its corresponding p value (<.005) below. Interestingly, a larger part of the

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population who are unemployed (67.2%) are found to be very happy as compared to the self

Happiness Employment Status Total

Paid Self employed Unemployed


employment
Very Unhappy 115.9 22.4 .5 138.8
(.5 %) (.4 %) (1.6%) (.8 %)

Somewhat unhappy 558.7 108.1 2.5 699.3


(3.2%) (3.4%) (1.6%) (3.9%)

Somewhat happy 6631.0 1283.0 29.9 7943.9


(46.0%) (44.9%) (29.7%) (46.8%)

Very happy 6876.5 1330.5 31.0 8238.0


(50.3%) (51.2%) (67.2%)
(48.5%)
Total 14182.0 2744.0 64.0 18010.0
100 % 100 % 100 % 100%

Chi-Square 206.275 9 (DF) .000(sig.)

employed (51.2%) and paid employment (50.3%). However, at second level of happiness, paid

employment and self employed constitute a larger population than the unemployed group (Table

3).

Table 3: Happiness by Employment Status

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We can explore the multivariate relationship between employment status and happiness

controlling for age and gender using multiple regression analysis.

Table 4: Happiness by Employment Status, Age and Gender


Un standardized Standardized
Variables Coefficients Coefficients t Sig.
B Std. Error Beta
(Constant) 349.69
3.493 .010 .000
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dummy for self-employed .024 .013 .012 1.889 .059
dummy for no labor force -.075 .010 -.057 -7.355 .000
dummy for unemployed .165 .076 .014 2.161 .031
Age group of the
-.016 .003 -.047 -6.302 .000
respondent
sex .028 .008 .023 3.523 .000
a Dependent Variable: happiness

As indicated in table 4, employment status still seems to be significant regardless of

gender and age, and vice versa. Those who are not in labor force (higher % of women than men)

have a high significant partial effect on happiness as compared to other groups controlling for

age and gender. Naturally, the association between these two is negative. Happiness decreases by

.075 for this group as compared to paid employment groups (.i.e. 3.493-.075 = 3.418). Similarly,

unemployment has a moderate effect on happiness controlling for age and gender. Interestingly,

the association between these two (unemployment and happiness) is positive. For instance,

happiness increases by .165 for unemployed as compared to paid employment groups and this

increment is also higher than for self employed (.024). Self employed is almost significant in

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determining happiness controlling for age and gender, while gender and age are still significant

controlling for employment status. For instance, males are happier than females irrespective of

their age and employment status as the level of happiness increases by .028 for males. However,

the association of each independent variable with happiness is weak, which ranges from .012 to .

057.

6.1.3 Happiness and Health

Health is found to have a significant effect on happiness (p <.005) rejecting our

hypothesis of independence. There is a positive association between these two, and the

association is quite strong as indicated by gamma value (.419).

A larger portion of the population (66.2%) with excellent health condition is very happy

as compared to people with other health conditions (Table 5). However, at second level of

happiness, the majority belongs to fair (61.4%) and good (58.3%) health condition than the

excellent health condition. It was also observed that old adults were happier with only very good

health condition as compared with younger age group who were happier with excellent health

condition.

Table 5: Happiness by Self assessed Health Rate

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Happiness Self Assessed Health Condition Total

Poor Fair Good Very good Excellent


Very Unhappy 6.5 19.6 54.0 70.2 50.7 201.1
(9.0 %) (1.9%) (.6 %) (.3%) (.2%) (.8 %)

Somewhat unhappy 31.6 95.0 261.4 339.8 245.3 973.0


(20.7%) (9.9%) (4.3%) (2.1%) (1.6%) (3.9%)

Somewhat happy 374.9 1128.1 3103.8 4034.1 2912.8 11553


(50.2%) (61.4%) (58.3%) (44.1%) (32.0%) (46.8%)

Very happy 389.0 1170.3 3219.8 4185.0 3021.0 11985.0


(20.1%) (26.7% (36.7%) (53.5%) (66.2%) (48.5%)

Total 802 2413 6639 8629 6229 24712


100 % (100%) 100 % 100 % 100 % 100%

Gamma (value) (Std.Error) (Approx.T) (sig.)


.419 .008 49.052 .000

Table 6 below summarizes the correlation between different well being variables.

The highest correlation (.341) exists between employment and income. Interestingly, the

correlation of employment with all other variables including happiness is negative. In most of the

cases, correlation is not strong although they are significant. For instance, employment is

significantly correlated with happiness, however, their association is weak (.078). Relatively

strong correlation (.318) exists between health and happiness given the scaling, which ranges

from 1 to 5 for health and 1 to 4 for happiness.

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Table 6: Correlation between Different Variables

HHs
income Healthy Happiness Employment
HHs income Pearson Correlation 1 .269(**) .170(**) -.341(**)
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000
N 19008 18991 18906 19003
Healthy Pearson Correlation .269(**) 1 .318(**) -.282(**)
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000
N 18991 24911 24712 24895
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000 .000
N 18887 24000 23850 24014
Happiness Pearson Correlation .170(**) .318(**) 1 -.078(**)
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000
N 18906 24712 24741 24726
Employment Pearson Correlation -.341(**) -.282(**) -.078(**) 1
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000
N 19003 24895 24726 24935
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .201 .000 .000

N 18992 24872 24703 24893

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Analyzing the well being factors that affected happiness proved a statistical significance

of each independent variables, which rejects our hypothesis of independence. However, none of

these indicators reflected that happiness was attained to the highest level with the highest level of

achievement implying the low strength of association.

6.2 Happiness as State of Contentment

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6.2.1 Satisfaction with health, job, finances and overall life

Happiness is analyzed on the basis of satisfaction in different aspects. Although

satisfaction is measured in ordinal scale (ranges from 1 to 5), multiple regression method is used

in order to see the relative effect of each satisfaction variables on happiness controlling for

others. Satisfaction in each aspect (job, finance, health, whole life) is found to have a significant

partial effect on happiness controlling for the rest as indicated by t test and their corresponding p

values (P<.005).

Table 7: Happiness by Satisfaction in Job, Finances, Health and Whole life


Un standardized Standardized
Variables Coefficients Coefficients t Sig.
B Std. Error Beta
(Constant) 1.599 .021 76.682 .000
satisfaction with health .076 .005 .101 15.675 .000
satisfaction with your
.063 .005 .092 13.812 .000
job and activity
satisfaction with
.045 .004 .065 10.065 .000
finances
satisfaction as a whole .305 .006 .377 53.161 .000
a Dependent Variable: happiness

Each of satisfaction variables is found to be positively associated with happiness. For

instance, happiness increases by .305 for every unit increase in life satisfaction as a whole and

the association between these two is relatively strong (.377), which ranges up to .065 at lowest.

6.2.2. Happiness and Social Support

Social support is measured in terms of belongingness, and number of closed friends and relatives

and trusted neighbors and the support for each other. Happiness has a strong dependency on

sense of belongingness as indicated by Gamma test and its p value (<.005) and the association

between these two is moderate (.340).

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A larger portion of people with strong sense of belongingness (65.5%) is very happy as

Happiness Sense of Belongingness Total

Very Somewhat Somewhat Very


weak weak strong strong
16.9
42.2 97.4 39.5 196.0
Very Happy (3.7%)
(.8%) (.4%) (.6%) (.8%)

Somewhat unhappy 948.0


81.9 204.1 471.0 191.0
(3.9%)
(11.1%) (5.5%) (2.7%) (2.0%)

Somewhat happy 11319.0


977.7 2436.5 5623.8 2281.1
(46.7%)
(53.4%) (57.2%) (47.0%) (31.8%)

Very happy 11792.0


1018.5 2538.3 5858.8 2376.4
(48.6%)
(31.8%) (36.5%) (49.9%) (65.5%)

Total 4888.0
24255.0
2095.0 5221.0 12051.0 (100.0%)
(100.0%)
(100%) (100%) (100%)

Gamma (Value) (Std. error) (Approx. T) (Sig.)


.340 (.009) 35.655 .000
compared to somewhat strong sense of belongingness (49.5%) and the rest (Table 8). However,

at second level of happiness, a majority are affiliated with somewhat weak (57.2%) and very

weak (53.4%) sense of belongingness than the people with strong and very strong sense of

belongingness.

Table 8: Happiness by Sense of Belonging to Local Community

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Social support is further analyzed using multiple regression method including number of

independent variables such as number of friends and relatives, and number of trusted

neighborhood. Each of these variables has a significant partial effect on happiness controlling for

the rest as indicated by t test and corresponding p values (<.005). While each of them has

positive association with happiness, the association is still weak (Table 9). For instance, every

increase in number of close relatives, happiness increases by .063 and the association between

these two is .121 and ranges up to .048 at lowest.

Table 9: Happiness by Friends, Relatives, and Neighborhood


Un standardized Standardized
Variables Coefficients Coefficients t Sig.
B Std. Error Beta
(Constant) 2.880 .017 164.681 .000
How many relatives do you
.063 .004 .121 17.600 .000
have who you feel close to?
How many close friends do
.049 .004 .086 12.463 .000
you have?
No. of Neighborhood
.053 .004 .085 12.836 .000
trusted

a Dependent Variable: happiness

• Emotional Support

Emotional support both for receiving and providing is found to have a significant effect

(p<.005) on happiness regardless of gender (Table 10). While receiving emotional support has a

negative association with happiness, providing the support has a positive association with the

same. It is interesting to learn that people feel happier when they can provide the emotional

support unlike when they receive it, as happiness decreases by .078 for those who receive

emotional support. Support provided and received in other ways is highly insignificant regardless

of the gender, and gender is still significant regardless of any kind of support.

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Table 10: Happiness by Emotional and Other Support
Un standardized Standardized
Variables Coefficients Coefficients t Sig.
B Std. Error Beta
(Constant) 3.417 .007 479.790 .000
received help by emotional
-.078 .009 -.063 -8.695 .000
support
received help by other way -.007 .015 -.003 -.484 .629
gave help by emotional
.066 .009 .054 7.389 .000
support
gave help by other way .001 .012 .000 .059 .953
sex .016 .008 .013 2.045 .041
a Dependent Variable: happiness

The association between happiness and all kind of support is weak, which ranges from .

000 to .063, although all of these variables collectively have a significant effect on happiness as

indicated by F test and its corresponding p value (<.005).

As in case of well being variables, variables relating to state of contentment are found to

have a significant effect on happiness that supports our hypothesis.

7. Conclusion

• Problems

Although well being and contentment variables revealed a statistical significance on pursuing

happiness, direction of causality was not clearly identified in many cases. For instance, causality

was not explicit in case of employment as happiness was found to be increased with unemployed

groups than with paid and self employed groups. The reasons for such outcomes (happiness

associated with unemployed and not in labor force) could be attributed to the social security

system that helps to achieve certain level of wellbeing to majority of the poor in the country.

However, this type of happiness counts only the objective indicators, while disregarding many

other intangible variables that go beyond their living conditions. For instance, majority of people

with disabilities in Canada have lived the worst lives even with good living conditions under the

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government support system in absence of social support, which might have more positive impact

on their living (personal observation, 2006). On the other hand, those who are unemployed may

have enjoyed better family lives with spouse income and thus feel happier, however, is less

likely for the majority.

Similarly, while income has a significant effect on happiness, but happiness was declined

once reaching to a threshold of high income as people from medium and high income group were

happier as compared to very high income group at second level of happiness. This is in line with

inferences drawn by other scholars in the past. The similar patterns were observed with other

wellbeing variables. Such outcome suggests that happiness can not be achieved merely by the

accomplishment of the wellbeing. Although, all these variables were found to be significant in

determining happiness regardless of control variables such as gender and age none of them

indicated a strong association except in case of health. Moreover, given the large sample size of

the survey, statistical significance alone reveals a little validity of the observations under study.

In any case, these findings would have been more meaningful, if they were supported by

some qualitative analysis. For instance, when using gender as a control variable, it is particularly

significant to study the power relations especially among low income households that determine

their access and control over income and other resources, which has a large impact on their well

being. Similarly, the dependency of old aged parents to their children for accessing their income

will have a significant effect on their level of happiness. Age can also have a significant effect on

their health condition affecting their level of happiness.

Similar to the well being variables, causality was not clearly depicted with contentment

variables as well. For instance, people with very strong sense of belongingness were less happy

than those with only strong sense of belongingness. While, satisfaction (finance, health, job and

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whole), sense of belongingness, social support (number of friends and relatives, trusted

neighbors), and emotional support in both ways revealed a statistical significance in determining

happiness, none of the association was strong except in case of life satisfaction as a whole.

Perhaps such outcomes could be linked with the problems in measurement process as the survey

methods are less valid in measuring satisfaction and interpersonal relationships as compared to

the observational studies.

Most importantly, the qualitative factors such as gender relations, social norms, aging factors,

and indigenous wisdom were not included in the analysis, which has limited the practical validity

of the above findings as indicated earlier. Given the existing social mechanism of capitalist

society, women are bearing the larger cost of social reproduction, which largely affects their

positions in labor market and thereby their state of contentment. For instance, more than 80 % of

women in North America choose the job and career that accommodate the demands of domestic

labor (Jacobs, 2004). Indigenous wisdom and knowledge are more than the degree that comes

from formal institutions and thus important to be considered while analyzing people’s

perceptions. Especially, personal relationships are strongly based on wisdom factors than the

formal education, which determines people’s attitude and their ways of thinking to impact

positively on everyone’s lives.

• Strategies

Happiness is more about building personal strength through development of positive

psychology, which enables people to live fulfilling lives even in less agreeable situations, as life

conditions are not always agreeable (Hirata, 2005). It is thus critical to focus on GNH approach

based on comprehensive development, which ultimately helps to build personal strength, ethos

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and values that are most important. Especially in the West, development approaches are

explicitly concerned with improvement in system and living conditions and not with living.

Unfortunately, personal attitude, values and inner strength are higher to the system that allows

people to sustain their happiness beyond well being.

Indigenous wisdom has proved to be very significant in pursuing happiness that teaches

human beings to live in harmony, peace, unity and security (Bracho, 2005; Lini, 2000). Such

wisdom leads to build human technologies that are linked to natural law of society, spiritual

beliefs, creation of stories, cultural values, and personal and social relationships. These human

technologies can have a significant role especially in North American society, where well beings

are exclusively linked with level of consumption and system of production and exchange.

A critical condition for happiness is to abandon the fear of not having enough (most often at

the expense of others), which is sheltered within the materialism. Instead, an emphasis should be

on sustainable happiness through one’s perceptions to impact on one’s own and other’s lives. In

this sense, wisdom and compassion together transforms human brain to the spirit enabling them

to attain the maximum level of happiness.

Happiness bridges the gap between well being and satisfaction as two sides of same coin.

People’s physical and mental well being is affected by their sense of belongingness, and the love

and compassion they can share among each other. Wellbeing is deeply rooted on people’s

choices to perceive, realize and act towards their own values and judgments that energize their

instincts towards the overall happiness.

8. Scope for Further Research

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As indicated earlier, the general social survey has its limitations in many aspects in

measuring the well being and satisfaction variables. In order to have more accuracy on

estimating people’s happiness with a good measurement process, the qualitative analysis

becomes highly significant apart from the quantitative measurements. It is thus desirable to focus

on ethnographic studies on some qualitative aspects such as measuring satisfaction and

interpersonal relationships. For instance, power relations, sense of belongingness and satisfaction

are hardly quantifiable. In such cases, it is particularly important to document the process than to

depict an outcome for ensuring high validity of the measurement. For instance, measuring

belongingness with ordinal scales provide options to say strong or weak but do not reflect the

real circumstances of participants, on which they feel how it is strong or weak, which is most

critical. In addition the survey responses on such issues could largely be influenced by the social

desirability bias. The supplementary information obtained through ethnographic studies adds

strength to the survey information for deepening the analysis, on which the validity is based upon

for this kind of research.

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